KOTA KINABALU, Oct 8 – The experience of being stranded in the waters of Mengalum, Sabah, for 30 hours did not dampen the spirits of the seven crew members of the Royal Malaysian Navy’s (RMN) CB204 combat boat to continue sailing in future. CB204 combat boat commander, Lt Azri Bakar, from Cheras, Selangor, said as a member of the navy it was compulsory for him to carry out his duties at any time.
“I can sail anytime. My soul is with RMN,” he told reporters, here, today upon arrival at the Kota Kinabalu RMN Base jetty in Sepanggar at 12.50pm. Azri and four other members were greeted by Region Two navy commander, Rear Admiral Datuk Mohammad Rosland Omar and other RMN officers and members. Also there to welcome Azri was his wife, Lt Commander Fazilah Makun, 29, who is also with RMN.
The CB204 combat boat, which was on its way to Station 5 in Gususan Semarang Peninjau, Pulau Layang-Layang on Sunday when it lost radio communication and drifted 50 nautical miles east of Pulau Layang-Layang after experiencing engine and gear failure. The boat was towed to the Kota Kinabalu RMN Base from 10pm yesterday, before it arrived here this afternoon.
Besides Azri, the six other RMN members onboard were BK PAP Charles Cristopher Muni, BM TMK Ince anak Ewin, BM TMK Steven Hudson anak Miso, BM JTP Nor Azuan Ariffin, LK KOM Sulhajji Daah and LK I PAP Azhry Maani. Recounting his experience after the boat lost contact with escort vessel KD Paus on its way to Station 5, Gugusan Semarang Peninjau, he said the sea waves at the time were between 2.5 and three metres high, making radio communication difficult.
However, they managed to contact civilian vessel at noon on Monday and asked it to relay the message to an RMN vessel. Azri, who was appointed as commander of the CB204 boat on Sept 18 and it was his first trip heading the boat to the Station 5, said the team was thankful that KD Paus managed to intercept their radio communication and to detect the boat’s location.
“I asked my colleagues to stay positive,” he said. BM JTP Nor Azuan Ariffin, 34, from Pahang, who has served the navy for 15 years, described the experience as coming back to life as the boat lost communication on the first day. For LK KOM Sulhajji Daah, 34, from Tawau, he only thought about his wife and two children during the 30 hours before the boat was rescued.
“The thought of them gave me strength…the sky was dark then and our boat was drifted by the waves…there were times when we feared no help would come and we would sink,” he said next to his sons Adam Haris, 7, and Aidil Hafiz,5. LK 1 PAP Azhry Maani said the experience taught them to appreciate camaraderie and friendship when they were forced to eat only bread with water.
“We started the journey cautious due to the rainy season. The weather was good and then came the heavy downpour. “Upon reaching the Mengalum waters, the waves were high and we couldn’t see anything in the distrance. At 1pm, we were separated from the main vessel crew,” he said in the presence of his wife, Rohaiza Abdul Halim. Azhry, who has been with the navy for eight years, will never forget this experience and the lessons it has taught him. “We are used to defying big waves, but this time we weren’t so lucky,” he added.